Steve Young, Vice President of Information Technology for VIA Metropolitan Transit, speaks about winning the Smart 50 Awards and the VIA Mobile Ticketing project in San Antonio, Texas.
The VIA goMobile app gives customers in San Antonio, Texas the ability to purchase bus passes anywhere, at any time, while simultaneously removing the need to keep track of a physical ticket, pass, cash, or token. Customers can conveniently keep a wallet of transit passes on their smart phone and activate them as needed. The passes remove the friction that come with normal cash transactions that take place on boarding a bus. Buying transit fares as one boards a bus can be confusing and scary for first time riders and is inherently a much slower and costlier transaction than an app based transaction. Another useful feature about VIA goMobile is that it provides direct access to VIA’s new Trip Planner and a ‘More Rides Nearby’ feature, which opens up several transportation modalities, which may suit our customer’s particular needs that best at any one point in their day. ‘More Rides Nearby’ allows customers to see available nearby BCycle stations, Lyft rides, and Zip Cars to make an informed choice about their travel options , giving them a great set of near seemless mobility options.
Q: What does the term ‘smart city’ mean to you, and how does your project contribute to a larger smart city vision?
A: Smart city is all about our citizens and how they interact with their city. The goals of a smart city should be to leverage technology to make our customers’ lives inherently better in some way. Cities are growing in population and density, and smart cities should seek to address issues that come with that growth, including addressing traffic and mobility issues. In San Antonio we have a very cohesive set of municipal partners that are working to collaborate on several future projects as part of our SmartSA initiative. It is a unique partnership, that is supported at the CEO level of all the partner agencies, which we think will allow us to move and act more quickly with rapidly changing technology.
Q: Why is the implementation of your project transformational in our current society?
A: Whether our project is truly transformational today may be debatable, but we know it has been for at least a subset of our riders. And more importantly, we feel that the VIA goMobile app is really the springboard for offering San Antonio citizens and customers an integrated trip planning and seamless payment mechanism. Our goal is to make multi modal trip planning and fare payment simple and easy to use for all.
Q: What advice did you receive along the way that helped you complete your winning project?
A: We learned very quickly that we had to work hand in hand with our corporate partners to make sure we all were on the same page for the project’s expectations and timelines. We met weekly with our partner, Moovel, to ensure that the final product would be the best we could put out for San Antonio. This partnership and collaboration continues today as we look at the next generation of the app and the features that it will include.
Q: What advice would you give a city community or a solution provider looking to implement a municipal-level project?
A: Figure out a problem that needs solving, which by being solved, will make your customers’ lives better. Don’t chase shiny “smart” projects that don’t solve real problems.
Q: What does it mean to you to win the Smart 50 Awards?
A: Winning the award helps affirm that those of us involved with the VIA goMobile project at VIA Metropolitan Transit worked very hard as a team to bring a great solution to our customers, helping affirm that San Antonio is working hard everyday to become a truly great SmartSA (smart San Antonio).